Looking Back at the XFL’s Los Angeles Xtreme

After all the recent talk of a possible XFL comeback, I wanted to look back at Southern California’s representation in the league: the first and (so far) only XFL champions, the LA Xtreme. When the WWF started its own football league, Los Angeles was a natural choice.  Both the Raiders and the Rams had left Los Angeles after the 1994 season, leaving a professional football void in the city. While the San Diego Chargers were Southern California’s only team, Los Angeles had never accepted them (and apparently still hasn’t despite their recent move to the city). While the XFL as a whole was generally regarded as bad football, things were at least interesting, on and off the field.

The Los Angeles Xtreme went into the league’s preseason as one of the favorites.  Quarterback Scott Milanovich was anticipated to be the team’s star, despite having only thrown 3 passes in his NFL career.  Tommy Maddox ended up winning the quarterback job from him before the season started, however.  Maddox would go on to win XFL Player of the Year.

The opening game of the season saw the Xtreme lose a close one on the road to the San Francisco Demons by a score of 13-15. The team would quickly turn its fortunes around when it hosted the winless Chicago Enforcers in Week 2 in front of a crowd of 35,813 at the Los Angeles Coliseum.  The game was probably the best game in the leagues history while at the same time doing some of the most harm to the leagues reputation both nationally and locally.

The game itself was an exciting shootout that went into double overtime before the Xtreme was victorious 39-32 with a late touchdown.  The Xtreme was trailing 25-13 and scored twice in the last 2:36 of regulation to tie the score at 25-25. They then scored a touchdown in each overtime session. Chicago only scored in the first overtime. The winning touchdown was a 20-yard pass play from Tommy Maddox to Darnell McDonald followed by Ken Oxendine running in the one-point PAT (there were no extra-point kicks in the XFL). Xtreme kicker Jose Cortez had missed several field goals that could have won the game earlier however, which lead to a sideline tirade by Tommy Maddox.

While this exciting game could have been a great showcase for the league, 1:15 into the game an NBC power generator ran out of gas. They didn’t get it back for 9:15 of playing time forcing NBC to switch to San Francisco’s game at Orlando. Also the game ran so long that the live broadcast of Saturday Night Live was delayed.  Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels was reportedly so upset about the delay that NBC was forced  to make changes to their XFL broadcast scheduling that included cutting away to Saturday Night Live in the case of another overtime game.

To make matters worse, the crowd behavior was so bad that the number of fights and inappropriate behavior in the crowd was a real issue. In the third quarter, the Chicago Enforcer’s Bishop Octavious, suffered a broken leg. As Octavious was being attended to, the crowd grew restless.  Fistfights began to break out, then a few fans began throwing beer, popcorn and other objects. Three bikini-clad strippers ended up in the hot tub that was behind the east end zone in full view of the crowd, which got some of the loudest cheers of the game. The team denied that it had anything to do with the strippers, only saying they were looking into who hired them. USC officials were reportedly extremely worried by this, as they felt the Coliseum’s image was just starting to recover from the damage done by Raider fans. The XFL issued a statement saying “The Xtreme will proactively go after a solution to this problem. We will absolutely not tolerate this kind of behavior, and our No. 1 priority is to solve the problem where our fans and season-ticket holders can come to the game and just have a good time.” Fights continued throughout the season, though as the season progressed there were less people to fight with.

The Xtreme defeated Las Vegas 12-9 in week 3, then hosted the Memphis Maniax in Week 4. The weather was awful with heavy rain soaking the field.  The game was filled with fumbles and errors, and the Maniax won 12-18.  Then at 2-2, the team began to roll, only losing 1 other game for the remainder of the season. They defeated The New York/New Jersey Hitmen 22-7 in week 5, Birmingham 35-26 in week 6, and blew out the undefeated Orlando Rage in week 7 by a score of 31-6. They then defeated Las Vegas 35-26 in week 8 and suffered their last loss of the season in week 9, once again losing to Memphis, 27-12. They ended the regular season avenging their opening day loss against San Francisco with a 24-0 shutout. They finished the regular season with a record of 7 wins and 3 losses. Meanwhile, attendance had fallen to 18,121 by their last regular season game.

In the playoffs they were set to have a rematch with the Chicago Enforcers, but this time had no problem with them, winning 33-16 in a rout.

The league’s championship game, named the Million Dollar Game because the winning team was to be awarded a million dollars, was set with the Xtreme hosting the San Francisco Demons.  It wasn’t close, with the Xtreme blowing out the Demons 38-6. It was Los Angeles first professional football championship since the Raiders won the 1984 Super Bowl and its second championship since the Rams won the NFL title in 1951. The Xtreme players split the $1 million reward with each player getting about $25,000 each.  Quarterback Tommy Maddox Tommy Maddox completed 16 of 28 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns and was named the game’s MVP.

Soon afterwards NBC announced it would not be broadcasting a second season of the XFL. Despite this, WWF chairman Vince McMahon vowed to continue the league and was even looking at expansion teams. Then on May 10, 2001, after he couldn’t come to terms with UPN on airing games for the next season, Vince McMahon announced the leagues closure, thus the end of the Los Angeles Xtreme.

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